Today’s data markets require that there be valuable data to trade but the Federal Communications Commission doesn’t quite see it that way. Last week the Commission voted to accept a report that concludes that 17% of the American population or approximately 55 million people, do not have access to advanced broadband. The Commission’s determination is based on new speed standards based on the speeds that approximately 70% of broadband customers are purchasing today.
From my view of the world here in Atlanta I can’t say that the Commission has much of a case when it argues that there is no choice among competing broadband providers even when you take income into account. Here in the West End where median income in the 30310 area code is approximately $24,606, we have seven wireline and wireless providers of internet access. They are Comcast (100 Mbps to 1 Gbps); AT&T (10 Mbps to 25 Mbps); Verizon (10 Mbps to 25 Mbps); T-Mobile (10 Mbps to 25 Mbps); Platinum Equity (6 Mbps to 10 Mbps); Sprint Nextel (6 Mbps to 10 Mbps); and MetroPCS (768 kbps to 1.5 Mbps).
The 30331 area code has a median income of $36,349 and the same choices in internet access carriers, with the only difference being the decrease in speed provided by Platinum Equity (3Mbps to 6 Mbps).
Our more affluent neoghbors to the north in Buckhead enjoy median incomes of $65,642. Sprint is not available as a service choice for the residents of Buckhead, but no worries. Platinum Equity provides service speeds of 25 Mbps to 50 Mbps while Level 3 provides 1 Gbps speeds.
You can see these speeds yourself using a nifty broadband-by-zip code calculator provided by the National Broadband Plan Map.
Not to completely dis my neighborhood but the West End is not the epicenter of finance and industry. While we have a couple grocery stores, a community and arts center, too many churches, a middle school, and a few banks, we are not generating the income that puts us on the list of high value data providers, not at an income of $24,606. You find that action up in Buckhead. There are enough banks, law firms, and high tech firms for you yto throw a cat at. These are the sources of high value data.
Three of the Commission’s members would no doubt nake the argument that with higher speed broadband, the high value data economic activity I allude to would exist in the West End or even Camp Creek. I would argue with them. The SnapChats of the world are being bought and sold for billions while only having a staff no larger than the numerous fast food joints that pepper the West End. These firms are not generating high value data that is made available for trade via data markets that consumers and producers access via broadband links. The data comes from high income consumers who may not be necessarily employed in tech.
No. Raising speed standards out of sense of duty to equate everyone with everyone is not the approach our progressive friends on the Commission should be taken in order to promote broadband deployment. Also, trying to preempt state law in order to encourage the deployment of municipal broadband is not the answer especially in neighborhoods like mine. Half of us simply can’t afford broadband.
Links to the internet should grow organically with broadband providers meeting demand for their services when consumers signal they are ready to purchase them. We will need to see a turnaround in economic development and incomes to see the broadband speed equality that progressives on the Commission desire.